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RADIOISOTOPE-DRIVEN DUAL-MODE PROPULSION SYSTEM FOR CUBESAT-SCALE PAYLOADS TO THE OUTER PLANETS

Description: It is apparent the cost of planetary exploration is rising as mission budgets declining. Currently small scientific beds geared to performing limited tasks are being developed and launched into low earth orbit (LEO) in the form of small-scale satellite units, i.e., CubeSats. These micro- and nano-satellites are gaining popularity among the university and science communities due to their relatively low cost and design flexibility. To date these small units have been limited to performing tasks in LEO utilizing solar-based power. If a reasonable propulsion system could be developed, these CubeSat platforms could perform exploration of various extra-terrestrial bodies within the solar system engaging a broader range of researchers. Additionally, being mindful of mass, smaller cheaper launch vehicles (approximately 1,000 kgs to LEO) can be targeted. Thus, in effect, allows for beneficial exploration to be conducted within limited budgets. Researchers at the Center for Space Nuclear Research (CSNR) are proposing a low mass, radioisotope-based, dual-mode propulsion system capable of extending the exploration realm of these CubeSats out of LEO.
Date: February 1, 2014
Creator: Jerred, N. D.; Howe, T. M.; Howe, S. D. & Rajguru, A.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

A Combined Neutronic-Thermal Hydraulic Model of CERMET NTR Reactor

Description: Abstract. Two different CERMET fueled Nuclear Thermal Propulsion reactors were modeled to determine the optimum coolant channel surface area to volume ratio required to cool a 25,000 lbf rocket engine operating at a specific impulse of 940 seconds. Both reactor concepts were computationally fueled with hexagonal cross section fuel elements having a flat-to-flat distance of 3.51 cm and containing 60 vol.% UO2 enriched to 93wt.%U235 and 40 vol.% tungsten. Coolant channel configuration consisted of a 37 coolant channel fuel element and a 61 coolant channel model representing 0.3 and 0.6 surface area to volume ratios respectively. The energy deposition from decelerating fission products and scattered neutrons and photons was determined using the MCNP monte carlo code and then imported into the STAR-CCM+ computational fluid dynamics code. The 37 coolant channel case was shown to be insufficient in cooling the core to a peak temperature of 3000 K; however, the 61 coolant channel model shows promise for maintaining a peak core temperature of 3000 K, with no more refinements to the surface area to volume ratio. The core was modeled to have a power density of 9.34 GW/m3 with a thrust to weight ratio of 5.7.
Date: February 1, 2011
Creator: Webb, Jonathan A.; Gross, Brian & Taitano, William T.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

NTR-Enhanced Lunar-Base Supply using Existing Launch Fleet Capabilities

Description: During the summer of 2006, students at the Center for Space Nuclear Research sought to augment the current NASA lunar exploration architecture with a nuclear thermal rocket (NTR). An additional study investigated the possible use of an NTR with existing launch vehicles to provide 21 metric tons of supplies to the lunar surface in support of a lunar outpost. Current cost estimates show that the complete mission cost for an NTR-enhanced assembly of Delta-IV and Atlas V vehicles may cost 47-86% more than the estimated Ares V launch cost of $1.5B; however, development costs for the current NASA architecture have not been assessed. The additional cost of coordinating the rendezvous of four to six launch vehicles with an in-orbit assembly facility also needs more thorough analysis and review. Future trends in launch vehicle use will also significantly impact the results from this comparison. The utility of multiple launch vehicles allows for the development of a more robust and lower risk exploration architecture.
Date: June 1, 2009
Creator: Bess, John D.; Colvin, Emily & Cummings, Paul G.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department